“Something old, something new, something borrowed…”
Along with “something for everyone” that rhyme for insuring a bride’s good fortune characterized the live announcement of the five operas slated for its 2014-15 season. Held at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts on February 20, 2014, the half-hour presentation by President/ General Director Kevin Ramach, Artistic Director Dale Johnson and Music Director Michael Christie employed something new by using streaming video to broadcast the selections for the first time in its 52 year history.
Descriptions of the fortunate five that form Johnson’s “real blockbuster” operatic slate appear below:
- “La fanciulla del West”—borrowed from David Belasco’s stage play “Girl of the Golden West,” this later work by Giacomo Puccini was lauded for its symphonic craftsmanship and ridiculed for its hackneyed plot. Conductor Arturo Toscanini esteemed it as “a symphonic poem.” The movie version starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy was one of their biggest hits.
- “Hansel and Gretel”—though “downright scary at times,” this Engelbert Humperdinck opera also is considered one of the “best family operas” for its “folk-influenced, whistle-able tunes” according to Johnson. Marianne Cornetti (Gingerbread Witch), Craig Irvin (Father), Angela Mortarello (Gretel) and the rest of the cast sing about real issues in a way that is “intricate without being long-winded.”
- “L’elisir d’amore”—Gaetano Donizetti’s opera (“The Elixir of Love”) is one of the most popular of the old “opera buffa” or comic bel canto operas in the contemporary repertoire. Minnesota Opera newcomers Nicole Cabell and Leonardo Capalbo with Andrew Wilcowske as the snake oil salesman are “effortlessly funny” in providing “real heart to this piece.”
- “Manchurian Candidate”—this new opera by composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell, co-creators of the Pulitzer-Prize winning “Silent Night,” receives its world premiere as the last of the Opera’s “New Works Initiatives.” Based on Richard Condon’s thriller about a brain-washed political assassin, the score reflects all the dark urges of villainess Eleanor Iselin performed by “Macbeth” soprano Brenda Harris.
- “Carmen”—this operatic blue-blood by composer Georges Bizet has an “ostensibly perfect score” whose arias like the “Torreador Song” have been parodied on “The Simpsons” and elsewhere. “Complete stage animal” Nora Sarouzian makes her Minnesota Opera debut in the challenging and rewarding role of the tragic heroine.
To complete their celebration of upcoming sonic riches, Johnson announced that the Opera has extended its relationship with conductor Michael Christie until 2018. Luck plays a role in everything including marriage, but the Minnesota Opera shows that having talented and dedicated partners improves the odds for achieving long-lasting success.